One crucial task during a dissolution proceeding is to determine the assets and liabilities for the parties to divide and to determine how same will be divided. The general statutory rule is that the Court will presume the parties shall divide all assets and liabilities equally (50/50)1.
The other companion general rule is that a party may not dissipate (hide or spend) assets during the pendency of a dissolution proceeding. If assets are dissipated, this can be used as evidence in Court that the marital assets should not be equally divided.
However, how does one party prove that the other is hiding assets? A party’s spending of assets may be proven by offering bank statements and examining transactions. But with hiding assets, especially assets that have traditionally been under the power/control of one party can be difficult.
Equally, where a party has controlled the finances for the marriage, the marital income and assets and liabilities my indicate a potential for dissipation, but it is hard for many litigants in this situation to even begin to know where to begin to direct their attorney to look for hidden assets.
In such cases, depending upon the objective and available resources, a wide array of tools are available to locate hidden assets, something as simple as a bank account. These tools range from a forensic accountant to a private investigator, each plays a different role and may be helpful in discovering and uncovering hidden assets.
The focus of this blog post is using private investigators to find hidden assets. When using a private investigator, it is important for both the client and lawyer to be aware of and to the extent possible give the private investigator sufficient information as to frame a point of departure.
For instance, a $100,000 total marital estate is unlikely to have off shore bank accounts to contend with. Private investigators have a wide array of tools that may be utilized.
If you consider a private investigator with your counsel, another important aspect of the relationship may be your attorney hiring the private investigator to “retain” him or her. By creating this formal relationship, it is considered a work product of the attorney and cannot simply be discovered/requested by the opposing party. This not an absolute rule.
A word of caution, however, an investigator versus a licensed private investigator may be far different things. Licensed private investigators have more means to obtain information than attorneys or average dissolution litigants.
However, no investigator may break the law to obtain information, and if so, it may create civil or criminal liability for the attorney, client and “investigator.” In addition, illegally obtained evidence may not be admitted, or there could be legal repercussions for obtaining such information.
Nevertheless, there are several means that can legally be used by a private investigator that can provide information about hidden assets. Through certain databases, cross references, and other techniques that make private investigators very helpful in the right type of case.
For example, a private investigator may aid in recovery of erased computer files, or cross reference names, addresses, and other information to obtain patters and potential places to look for hidden assets.
In legitimate cases, and in compliance with the law, a private investigator may use GPS tracking or triangulation to aid in a particular case, track computer strokes to determine the internet searches or other computer information of a party and obtain cell phone data
Using one or many of these means, a private investigator can help uncover hidden assets in a pending dissolution. It is important to be sure to properly retain and request information that can be legally attained from investigators so that the same may be useful in Court and not create additional information.
We hope that this blog post has been informative about how to discover hidden assets in divorce and the potential use of a private investigator. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.